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S.C. State preparing for virus: ‘It is real and it is around us,’ president says
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S.C. State preparing for virus: ‘It is real and it is around us,’ president says

From the Local response to the Coronavirus series
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South Carolina State University is preparing for the coronavirus, according to President James Clark.

"It is real and it is around us … We know that this something that we must be very serious about,” Clark said.

Clark spoke to university trustees about the coronavirus last week. Since then, the university has placed a moratorium on all international university-sponsored travel for students, faculty and staff.

Clark, who held a planning meeting with members of his staff on March 2, said the university is developing protocols including an ongoing interaction with the Regional Medical Center, Claflin University and Orangeburg city and county governments.

"We're also going to be dealing with the state at a different level. You'll be seeing more about that later,” Clark said.

ScreenCloud digital signage has been put up across the campus to keep students informed on how they learn more about the virus and how to take precautions against it.

Clark said the director of the university’s Brooks Health Center participated in a state Department of Health and Environmental Control conference call on March 4 and that preparations are also being made in the event classes have to be cancelled, which he doesn’t expect.

“If we have an instance of the virus on the campus in certain buildings, we may have to quarantine those buildings at a minimum. And if it goes further than that, we may have the cancel the physical classes. So we're looking at the classes that are online, classes that can be delivered remotely and which ones cannot,” he said.

The university's facilities management officials underwent training with DHEC as well as Orangeburg County emergency preparedness officials on March 6.

Clark said 25 additional hand sanitizing stations are being installed around campus and cleaning is being done at a more vigorous level.

"We're collecting the travel of every student, faculty or staff associated with the university. Now a student could go home and the parents could decide to travel somewhere. That's out of our purview. But if it's under the purview of the university, as a staff, as a faculty, as a student, we're tracking,” the president said.

The university is also reviewing potential quarantine protocols for people returning from areas of widespread or sustained transmission of the virus.

President’s report

Clark said university officials will appear before the Senate Finance Committee on March 10.

Among its requests from the state Legislature are $12 million to grow enrollment and $15 million to replace aging residence halls.

The university is also seeking $2.5 million in matching funds to be able to draw down $11 million to support the continued development of its Transportation Center.

Clark said, “It's been there for some time. It requires a $2.5 million match. And that is something we must go after."

He reported the university's total number of admitted undergraduates is up 37.5 percent. The university has a budgeted spring enrollment of 2,374, with more efforts to be made in admitting students earlier.

He said the university must also work to increase its research capacity, including with the potential placement of a vice president for research “whose sole purpose is to bring in the tens of millions of (research) dollars.”

As far as the university’s master plan, S.C. State entered into an agreement with ASG Architects for a visioning assessment. The company will be on campus on April 9.

Trustee Monica Scott said, “They did agree to come down and do more or a less a visionary study with us so that we would then be in a position to do an effective RFP for a full master plan.”

Clark said the university’s Rave Guardian safety app was launched Feb. 2. A panic button option “if there’s an active shooter or fire” will be brought on later, he said.

Upcoming events for the university include an on-campus visit from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools officials on March 24-26; Enrollment Day on March 27; the grand opening of the new 1890 building at 12:30 p.m. Friday, March 27 and May commencement exercises on May 8.

1890 Research and Extension

Trustee Doris Helms reported that the university’s 1890 Research and Extension Program will be administering an Agriculture Innovation Scholarship Program totaling $2.5 million over four years. The program includes 40 scholarships which will provide $10,000 a year for four years and 20 one-time $5,000 scholarships.

She said the university’s 1890 facility in Charleston is scheduled to be complete in October.

Finance

Trustee Wilbur Shuler said, “Having a clean audit is attributed to the quality of the work that’s done by the staff here. We approved a budget early, and we kept doing that same budget. We had no major changes other than some budget amendments that may have occurred.”

Vice President for Finance and Management Teare Brewington said the university’s total budget revenue for its 2019-2020 budget was $71.8 million as of Jan. 31.

“That included about $26 million, $27 million in appropriations. So for the most part, through January all our tuition and fees should be realized,” Brewington said.

“Through January, our actual revenue reported is $57.1 million. There is a variance currently of about $14 million, largely due to appropriations that have not been received. So they are authorized. We will receive them, but they come in over a period of time. We don’t get our full appropriations up front,” she said.

“From a revenue perspective … we are where we anticipate being. … All our other revenue is about on pace, nothing significant that would cause us to do any serious cuts. There may be some VPs that adjusted their individual spending … but there’s not a need for a serious reduction in expenses of any type at this time,” Brewington said.

Institutional advancement

Sonja Bennett-Bellamy, the university’s vice president for institutional advancement and external affairs, said, “We were seeing a good 30 percent increase in social media engagements as far as the university is concerned. ... The whole team has been instrumental in doing that,” she said.

She said work is continuing on the upgrade of the university’s website, as well as work to develop the university’s plan to market its Quality Enhancement Plan and prepare for the university’s 125th anniversary.

Bennett-Bellamy also said there will be an Orangeburg Massacre brick campaign drive to raise money to develop the area where the busts of the three slain men will be displayed.

The university’s newspaper and magazine publications have also been brought back, she said.

Trustee John J. Funny, president of the S.C. State National Alumni Association said a new alumni chapter is being chartered in Indianapolis, Indiana, with a Los Angeles Bulldog Roundup scheduled for March 14.

Funny said the effort is being made to pull together the university’s more than 150 alumni in California and get them interested in supporting the university and enhancing recruitment efforts on the West Coast.

Student affairs/athletics

Dr. Tamara Jefferies-Jackson, vice president for student affairs, reported that Handshake career software has been added to the career center website.

“This particular software increases student and employer engagement. It allows recruiters to easily connect with schools and post jobs from a single dashboard. It also allows students to review jobs based on their major, their interests and their skills, and it serves as a mechanism to track placement,” she said.

S.C. State Athletics Director Stacy Danley reported that the university has 87 student-athletes who’ve earned a 3.0 grade point average or higher, along with nine student-athletes with 4.0 GPAs.

He said, “We also talked about winning the MEAC highest graduation success rate award. We’re graduating our student-athletes at 83 percent, and that’s the highest in the MEAC right now. So during the spring meeting, we will receive the award of $25,000.”

Danley also reported that the university has raised more than $2.2 million with its R.I.S.E. major gift initiative.

“We have 150 donors, 178 gifts. Our original goal was $1.78 million. So we’re about $500,000 over that. We have taken that extra cash to invest” in a specialty athletic nutrition center, he said.

“It includes a smoothie bar, and we’re going to have supplemental meals” maybe a couple of times a week, along with daily healthy snakes and protein shakes, Danley said.

In other business, the trustee board approved allowing public comments at full board meetings. At the board meetings, individuals have to sign up 10 minutes before the start of the meeting and are limited to two minutes.

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